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THE SITUATION ROOM
China Tensions; Interview With Idaho Senator James Risch; South Carolina Police Officer Fired; Military Blimp Gets Loose; White Deputy Fired for Violent Arrest of Black Student. Aired 18-19:00p ET
Aired October 28, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Raising fears of a devastating crash, as it knocks down power lines and floats on the loose for hours. Tonight, the blimp is down, and the U.S. military faces critical questions about what went wrong.
Escalating showdown. Just hours after a U.S. warship sails through waters claimed by China, there is a new warning that Beijing is preparing for the worst, including war.
Undersea threat. Russian submarines are prowling alarmingly close to Internet cables below the water. Could Moscow be planning an assault to shut down online communication around the globe? We are going to tell you what we're learning from U.S. officials.
And officer fired. New fallout from the shockingly violent take down of a high school student all captured on camera. A second teenager who was arrested is talking to CNN about the moments you don't see on video.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, a potentially disastrous escape of a U.S. military blimp that mysteriously broke free from its base in Maryland.
U.S. fighter jets tracked the missile-detecting airship for hours as it dragged a mile-long in strong winds, hitting power lines, knocking out electricity to nearly 20,000 homes. It landed in Pennsylvania just a little while ago. So far, there is no explanation about how this happened, putting people on the ground at risk from a blimp that is nearly as large as a football field and can carry 7,000 pounds of sensitive radar and other equipment.
Also this hour, we're tracking ominous moves by Russian submarines near underwater cables that carry most of the world's Internet communications. With Cold War style tensions clearly on the rise, U.S. officials are revealing their assessment of what Moscow may be up to. I will ask Senator James Risch about those stories and more.
He's a top member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by to cover all the news that is breaking right now.
First, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what are you learning about how this mysterious blimp incident happened?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, good evening.
This went on for over three hours as this blimp drifted 200 some miles from Aberdeen, Maryland, where it was tethered at a military facility, into Northeastern Pennsylvania, dragging that cable behind it, ripping out power supplies to some 20,000 people in that area of Pennsylvania, tracked by two armed F-16s all the ways that were trying to ensure all airspace was kept safe and that people on the ground would not be in harm's way when it fell to earth.
Just before 4:00, it started deflating. They do not know why it started deflating and they were able eventually to secure it in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The question now tonight, Wolf, is what happened. Obviously, this is a big problem, not supposed to happen. It's even supposed to deflate if there is an emergency and it drifts off its tether. It's just not supposed to be designed for this kind of contingency that happened today.
Major investigation under way looking at the whole military effort here, the contractor that runs the program, a number of contractors involved, trying to figure out what happened and whether they want to continue with this now. What is the level of danger and uncertainty that something like this poses? Until they find out exactly what happened, they won't be able to answer that question, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a huge program. Billions of dollars have been invested in this program, right?
STARR: Exactly. This is just one part of a larger effort to develop a type of high-tech tethered drone blimp that can carry the radar equipment to watch on a 360-degree level for unidentified aircraft, incoming low-flying cruise missiles, part of the effort to keep especially the Washington, D.C., capital region area's air defense -- air safe, to keep the air, the skies over Washington safe.
This was undergoing operational testing. But here is a really interesting question. NORAD today said no worries, the national capital skies are absolutely safe. They are safe all the time. They have plenty of assets. It's going to, again, perhaps raise questions, why are they spending billions on this if already the skies really are safe, Wolf?
BLITZER: It's a good question, indeed. Thanks very much for that, Barbara Starr.
Let's bring in our aviation analyst Miles O'Brien.
Potentially, they should have shot this blimp down, but that would have been a disaster given the money they have already invested in this one blimp. There are two of them.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: What's interesting about this blimp, Wolf, it's neutrally buoyant, which means it's designed to have equal pressure on both sides of the envelope.
And to shoot it down is no small task. You would have to unleash quite a few .20-millimeter rounds from those F-16s to do it. Clearly, it was losing helium and it was designed to stay up there for 30 days and it came down quickly. Was it a result of the accident or something along the way that caused the helium to expel?
BLITZER: This is the first time ever that a blimp like this has ever gone untethered and just started floating away. Do they have a sense how this could have happened?
O'BRIEN: Well, it was fairly windy. It's kind of lousy weather on the East Coast, about 50-mile-an-hour winds at altitude. Should have been fine, but there's a lot of things that can occur in these situations.
Makes you wonder why they didn't have a second or maybe even a third tether. A little bit of redundancy would be a good thing in this situation, I think.
BLITZER: It could have been pretty dangerous, though, especially if it would have crash landed in a populated area.
O'BRIEN: If it went up the Northeast, up the 95 Corridor, the most densely populated corridor in this country, I shutter to think of some of the possibilities. It could have been clonked somebody.
The good news is, it moves slowly. It moves about as quickly as the wind and you would see it coming, it wouldn't come down quickly, and you have the ability to anticipate. But, fortunately, the wind was blowing in a way that sent it straight north up towards Wilkes- Barre and frankly some unpopulated areas.
BLITZER: Yes, could have been a whole, whole lot worse, fortunately.
BLITZER: Now they have to figure out how this happened to make sure it doesn't happen again.
O'BRIEN: Which is what aviation is all about, exactly.
BLITZER: Miles, thanks very, very much.
O'BRIEN: You're welcome. BLITZER: Let's get to the escalating tensions right now between
the United States and China after an American warship sailed into disputed territory. There is now a new warning coming from Beijing that China is not afraid of actually going to war.
Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.
Jim, neither side seems to be budging in this showdown.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not, certainly not China as well, that warning coming in a Chinese newspaper closely tied to the ruling Communist Party and it lays out a series of possible military steps, including shadowing U.S. warships, firing shots across their bows and even disabling them, arguing that such moves will send a message that China is not intimidated by the possibility of war.
But the paper also says the moves by the U.S. Navy are largely political, a show, it called them. U.S. officials are urging de- escalation.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, Beijing is firing a rhetorical shot across the bow. After a U.S. destroyer sailed right through waters claimed by China, a newspaper closely tied to the Chinese Communist Party encouraging the government to convince Washington that China is "not frightened to fight a war with the U.S. in the region."
A spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry demanded the transits stop.
YANG YUJUN, CHINESE DEFENSE MINISTRY (through translator): The United States should take concrete measures to correct the wrongdoing and prevent such incidents from happening again.
SCIUTTO: U.S. officials insist that the transits by U.S. Navy ships are not incidents at all, but legal, even routine navigation in waters no nation can claim as their own.
JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: To sail a ship through international waters is not a provocative act in any way whatsoever and shouldn't be taken as a provocative act.
SCIUTTO: Not backing down, the U.S. military says such passes near disputed artificial Chinese islands in the South China Sea will continue.
ASHTON CARTER, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits and whatever and whenever our operational needs require it.
SCIUTTO: China is now threatening to expand military activities in the area to warn away U.S. vessels and aircraft, as we saw during an exclusive flight in a surveillance plane over the same island this may. The State Department urged China to avoid further escalating tensioning.
KIRBY: We want to see the tensions de-escalate and calm down and we don't believe it's in anybody's benefit for there to be any militarization of these reclaimed features.
SCIUTTO: The U.S. Navy is making preparations to make these transits routine. How frequent remains a decision for the president. There was also news today that one U.S. ally in the region, Australia, considering joining the U.S. Navy in transiting these waters to echo the message that these waters, Wolf, are international.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thanks very much, Jim Sciutto reporting.
Meanwhile, tonight, Iran is preparing to join international talks on the war on Syria after accepting an invitation from the United States. There are now new indications that Tehran is taking its involvement in the meetings very seriously.
Our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is joining us now with more.
Iran sending a high delegation, a high-level delegation to Vienna for these talks on Friday.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Four Minister Zarif will be there. At first, the Iranians were hinting it could be a deputy minister. But the foreign minister will be there. We're not sure how much influence he has over Iran's Syria policy. He was the key architect of the Iranian nuclear deal, but the Revolutionary Guards are believed to have a lot more sway on the Syria policy and so we will have to see.
But it's very significant that Iran is willing to start cooperating on issues outside the nuclear deal, and also the fact that other countries like Saudi Arabia who had balked at Iran coming will be willing to sit with them at the table.
BLITZER: Very significant, indeed. The invitation, I take it, was formally extended by the United States to Iran. This is pretty significant, since for the last several years the U.S. has refused to talk about -- to talk to Iran about anything other than the nuclear deal.
LABOTT: That's right. It was officially handed to the Iranians by the Russians. The U.S. is letting them take the lead with the Iranians, but it was on behalf of the United States.
And for years, the U.S. said they didn't want to talk to Iran specifically having a role in Syria because they weren't willing to talk about Assad's oust. But it's a recognition, Wolf, that Iran is one of the major players on the ground between its forces and Hezbollah. As we reported yesterday on this program, they are deepening the involvement.
So, real recognition by the U.S. that any serious effort is solve the civil war there is not going to be solved without Iran at the table and Russia and the Europeans have been arguing for them there. I think Russian intervention, the Iranian nuclear deal all having a hand in Iran now at the table. Secretary Kerry has developed a good working relationship with the foreign minister.
I think that's helping their back-channeling a little bit on that. I don't think Iran will do a 180 and be willing to cut Assad loose any time soon, but I think their willingness to participate could be an important factor in getting everybody to the table to try and find some kind of formula for a political solution, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Elise Labott, with that.
Joining us now is a leading member of the Senate Intelligence Foreign Relations Committees, Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
I want to talk about Iran, Russia, Syria, all that stuff in a moment, but this military blimp that simply got untethered, and was floating around Pennsylvania, this is a -- billions of dollars have been invested in these two blimps, and some have suggested this is a waste of money. Have you a chance to look into this program?
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: We have just had general briefings on this so far.
There really hasn't been any blame assigned. But obviously there is blame. There's clearly human error in this. This shouldn't happen under ordinary circumstances.
BLITZER: Because remember not that long ago, when the gyrocopter was floating around Capitol Hill, that blimp in nearby Maryland was supposed to have known that, but it wasn't operational that day.
"The L.A. Times" says the JLENS -- that's the official name for this military blimp -- "is a stark example of what defense specialists called a zombie program, costly, ineffectual, and seemingly impossible to kill."
This is a $2.5 billion program. It's a lot of money.
RISCH: It's a lot of money. And these are kinds of things that in the tight budget era that we're in, these are the kinds of things that are going to be looked at very critically.
And when you have something like this happen, it certainly doesn't speak well for the program.
BLITZER: Certainly doesn't. All right, let's talk about some of the other issues that are
going on right now. First of all, you heard Elise Labott report the U.S. has now invited Iran to participate in these talks involving the future of Syria, the talks taking place in Vienna, Austria, starting on Friday. The foreign minister of Iran will be there. Are you with the administration on this?
RISCH: Well, I think that clearly when you're going to have talks like that, everybody should be invited. And I think people are expressing surprise that the Iranians are going to show up, particularly when the ayatollah said, we're not going to deal with the United States anymore.
You will recall he did that not long after the agreement was signed. But I'm not surprised. Why wouldn't they? The last time they sat down at the table with the United States, they walked away with the farm. I would think that they would delighted to sit down at the table involving any issues that we have our hands in, because they have been very, very successful in negotiations.
BLITZER: Because you're talking about the nuclear deal.
BLITZER: That you voted against.
RISCH: I did.
BLITZER: The fear is, at least the critics say that Iran coming into these talks about the future of Syria, together with Russia, both of them are strong supporters of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has been so brutal against its own citizens.
RISCH: Well, just as with the nuclear agreement, there is basic irreconcilable differences between the two parties.
On the Iran nuclear deal, as you will recall, Iran said, well, look, we're not going to sit down unless you agree that we can continue to enrich uranium, which the United States didn't want to do. The U.S. agreed to it. They sat down and they walked away with that.
This time, you have the Russians and you have Iran saying, we're not going to be any part of a deal that boots Basar Ashad -- excuse me...
BLITZER: Bashar al-Assad.
RISCH: ... out of power.
And the United States' specific policy, announced policy is that Assad has to go. And so how you reconcile those two, I don't know. I suspect, as far as Assad is concerned, the courts in Europe are going to want to have a talk with he and the other people, in as much as they have used chemical weapons on their people. BLITZER: On this -- on China, the South China Sea, this eyeball-
to-eyeball potential confrontation between the U.S. and China over these manmade islands there, the Chinese say this is their territory, the U.S. says not so fast, hundreds of miles offshore.
Potentially, this could be very serious.
RISCH: It could be very serious.
And this is something that is really, really important for administration to get a handle on and get a handle on very quickly. They need to sit down and have the kind of talks they are talking about in these other things with China on this particular issue.
BLITZER: We have much more to discuss. Stay with us, Senator.
Much more with Senator Risch right after this.
BLITZER: We're back with Senator James Risch. He's a top member of the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees.
Senator, stand by for a moment.
We're getting some new information about maneuvers by Russian submarines that are setting off alarm bells within the U.S. intelligence community.
Let's bring back our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
What are you learning, Barbara?
STARR: Wolf, U.S. Naval intelligence for the last several months, since the summer pretty much, has been noticing Russian submarines' increased activity in the Atlantic.
And they think that one of their targets of surveillance, not attack, surveillance, are the undersea cables that run under the Atlantic between the U.S. and Europe carrying vital data, voice, Internet, all the communications fundamentally between the two continents.
This is some of the most critical infrastructure the U.S. has. What they have noticed is Russian submarines stepping up their patrolling, very secretly trying to maneuver near these cables, not to cut them, but maybe just to poke at the United States and say here we are because there are also sensors that warn the U.S. when a submarine, when something is approaching those cables.
They also last month saw a Russian intelligence ship, surface ship, very unusual, come down the East Coast of the United States, go down to Cuba and then go back across the Atlantic. We are told U.S. Naval intelligence tracked that all the way.
Perhaps all of this the latest wrinkle in the cat and mouse game between the U.S. and Russia, and a lot of concern that underlying all of this is the Russian effort to step up their military operations from Ukraine to Syria and off the coast of the United States -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very worrisome developments. Barbara, thanks very much.
Let's bring back Senator Risch.
You're on the Intelligence Committee. What are you hearing about these Russian moves towards these underwater cables?
RISCH: Well, Wolf, it's no secret that all nations who are First World countries that track the military maneuvers of all other nations.
Barbara said that this was done secretly. The Russians know they can't do this secretly, any more than we could do this secretly.
BLITZER: What are they trying to achieve? Do they want to penetrate these cables, get sensitive information? They certainly don't want to destroy them, because that could -- who knows what that would lead to.
RISCH: That's exactly right.
If you had terrorist organizations looking at these, you would be very, very concerned. Look, if those cables were cut, injured or what have you, the Russians stand to lose a whole lot, because they are on those cables with financial transactions that go back and forth between London and New York as much as any other country in the world. They depend on them. The world economy depends on them. And they are very important.
BLITZER: But short of destroying them or breaking them or anything like that, could they tamper with them to pick up sensitive information?
RISCH: Yes, highly unlikely.
Is it possible? Yes, it's possible. Would they like to? Certainly, they would like to. But there are ways and means of people knowing when those things have been tampered with.
BLITZER: So, just they are trying to show off a little bit? Is that what they're trying to do?
RISCH: Well, I think this is all part of the Putin strategy of aggravation against the United States, and perhaps it's because of the sanctions that we put on Russia. That's the most likely thing that is aggravating him. But Barbara just ticked off all the things that Russia is doing
to provoke, to aggravate, to cause the United States concern. And it's ongoing. And as she pointed out, I think everyone has noticed that, since late July, early August, this whole thing has ratcheted up and that's when all the movement started of the troops and the materials and everything else going into Syria.
BLITZER: So reminiscent of the bad old days of the Cold War that you and I clearly will remember.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Syria right now. The defense secretary, Ash Carter, suggesting maybe there is a greater combat role for the U.S., not only against ISIS in Iraq, but also in Syria. Is that OK?
RISCH: I think they got the cart before the horse. We need to know what the strategy is. We need to know what tactics...
BLITZER: The strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS.
RISCH: Yes. Well, that's the objective.
The strategy of how you're going to do it and the tactics of how you're going to do it are another whole question. And I can tell you the Congress is not on board with stepping this up with mission creep, with going forward with combat troops there without knowing a whole lot more than what there is.
BLITZER: Do they need formal congressional authorization to step it up?
RISCH: Of course they do. Yes. The White House says no. Congress says yes.
BLITZER: What do you say?
RISCH: I say they do need it.
One of the things that distinguishes the United States from other countries is we, the American people, have withheld the power to do military action with the civilian branch of the government, the first branch of government. That lies in the hands of Congress, not in the hands of the military.
BLITZER: Senator Risch, thanks for joining us.
RISCH: You bet.
BLITZER: Senator Risch of Idaho.
Just ahead, a sheriff's deputy now fired for throwing a high school student to the ground in a violent arrest all caught on video. Will there be any other punishment for what happened? Plus, the fate of two teenagers who were arrested -- why they are still facing criminal charges tonight.
BLITZER: The deputy sheriff, the school resource officer as he's called, who threw a teenage girl from her desk in a violent arrest that was all caught on camera has been fired. His boss, the sheriff, says South Carolina deputy Ben Fields violated regulations in an incident that's adding new fuel to the heated debate over policing and race, among other issues.
Our Martin Savidge is in Columbia, South Carolina, for us tonight.
Martin, what are you learning? There are new details unfolding even as we speak.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. You know, the sheriff out here said that, after he saw that video, he wanted to move very quickly on this case. Forty-eight hours later, he did, giving the announcement just about everybody expected.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Tonight the officer in this video out of a job.
SHERIFF LEON LOTT, RICHLAND COUNTY: Twenty minutes ago, School Resource Officer Ben Fields was terminated from the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
SAVIDGE: The county sheriff's internal affairs division determining that Officer Ben Fields used excessive force while removing the 16-year-old student from her classroom.
LOTT: There's techniques that we're taught. There's pressure points. There's other things that you use. It's called pain compliance. And throwing someone across the room is not pain compliance, and that's not something that we teach.
SAVIDGE: In the incident report filed by Officer Fields, he said he used "muscling techniques" after she refused his request to get up. Then according to the report, she hit him in the chest with a closed fist.
The student's attorney claims the student's arm is in a cast and that she also injured her head.
A second student arrested in the fracas, 18-year-old Niya Kenny, tells CNN it started when the student refused to hand over her phone to the math teacher; and that's when Fields was called in to remove her.
Kenny says she was upset and screaming at the officer. That's when Fields then arrested her.
NIYA KENNY, STUDENT ARRESTED AFTER INCIDENT: He said, "You got so much -- you got something you want to say? You got something you want to say? You want some of this, too?"
And I was just like, "No," and I just put my hands behind me back.
SAVIDGE: Some of the students in the classroom, including the one who shot this video, are coming out in support of Fields, saying he was facing an unruly student. And while not excusing Officer field's behavior, the sheriff is holding that student accountable for her actions, as well.
LOTT: We must not lose sight that this whole incident started by this student. She is responsible for initiating this action. Some responsibility that falls on her.
SAVIDGE: Ben Fields now has an attorney. Scott Hays issued a statement on his behalf late this afternoon. He said that the officer would like to thank all of those who actually have come to his support, and the attorney says that they are going to show that all the actions by this former officer now were lawful and the correct procedure to take -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Martin Savidge in Columbia for us. Martin, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now with the president and CEO of the national -- of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.
Cornell, thanks very much for coming in.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT/CEO, NAACP: Good evening, Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume you agree it was appropriate to fire this deputy sheriff?
BROOKS: Yes, I mean, here we have an officer who flips a student out of a desk and throws him across the room.
BLITZER: In this case, case, her.
BROOKS: Her, and as he puts it, use muscling techniques. This is just -- this is very distressing, very disturbing. It's a 16-year- old.
And the fact of the matter is, police officers should not be put in the role of being, essentially, social workers with a badge and baton or handcuffs. A mature, experienced teacher with judgment would have been a better resource here than a school resource officer with handcuffs.
This is a very, very dangerous situation, where essentially, a student refuses to comply with her teacher or with the vice principal. The fact of the matter is, we believe that there could have been other strategies employed, other than deploying an officer, who's pretty strong, with a set of handcuffs.
BLITZER: You said of this incident, you said, "It's yet another example of the misuse of force and the exceedingly disproportion of contact with resources officers with young minority students." Explain what you mean by that.
[18:35:02] BROOKS: So where we have 14 school resource officers in schools -- 14,000 across the country. Where we have African- American students, who represent 16 percent of the student population, 27 percent of those referred to law enforcement, 31 percent of those arrested.
So we have what appears to be a disproportion response, disciplinary response, to disciplinary problems by African-Americans.
Any number of scholars all across the country have attested to a brutally efficient preschool-to-prison pipeline. Not a school-to- prison pipeline. We see disparities from the very beginning of our children's lives in school systems all across...
BLITZER: So you don't want these police officers, these deputy sheriffs in the schools? Is that what you're saying?
BROOKS: What we're saying here is the use of these school resource officers in our schools must be done in a very thoughtful way. They were brought into the schools, particularly in the wake of Columbine, but these officers are to be used to protect our students from students with guns, as opposed to other students with cell phones. That is not a role here.
As one officer put it, one law enforcement official put it, "If you wouldn't call 911, then why are you calling SRO?" A school resource officer.
In fact, Wolf, just yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to a -- annual convention of International Association of Chiefs of Police.
BLITZER: In Chicago.
BROOKS: In Chicago. Where the president spoke. And what we heard from them was they don't want to be used as social workers. They don't want to be used to cure all of society's ills. They want to be used and deployed in terms of protecting the country, protecting communities, protecting schools, not solving run-of-the-mill, routine disciplinary problems.
BLITZER: Now, in this particular case, this 16-year-old girl, African-American, the deputy sheriff, white. But these police officers who go to these schools, presumably it all started because there were gang violence in some of these schools, and some of these gang members had weapons, whether knives or guns.
BROOKS: Indeed. And that's a problem that we certainly have to address with the appropriate level of law enforcement.
But where we have a run-of-the-mill disciplinary problem, we should not deploy the police to solve that kind of problem.
In fact, think about it this way. If you had a parent flip her child out of a desk like that, throw them across the classroom in a public way, we might call the Department of Family Services. The fact that the police officer does this does not make it any more right. It's an inappropriate use of force. That -- that's the fact. And it's the reason why parents all across the country are deeply disturbed by this video, and it appears to be yet again, another in a string of such videos.
BLITZER: This young 16-year-old girl in the class, she was apparently -- wanted to use her cell phone or something, didn't want to give it to the teacher, refused what the teacher asked. Principal, assistant principal came in, refused. At that point, they called the deputy sheriff to come in, and we all saw the video of what happened.
She's charged, this 16-year-old girl, now with a crime, a criminal charge. You're a lawyer. Apparently, another girl in the case who was just taking the video also charged. Both of them potentially could face severe charges.
BROOKS: This is deeply problematic. The fact of the matter is, we have parents, grandparents all across the country who deal with adolescent behavior, who deal with the fact that teenagers aren't always inclined to do what their parents, their teachers and others in -- in positions of authority ask them to do.
But we don't handcuff. We don't charge young people with crimes for adolescent behavior. If that were the case, I would suggest, modestly, that nearly every member of Congress, every member of the Supreme Court, and many of us in responsible positions would have criminal records, because we were all teenagers at one point.
BLITZER: So you want them to drop these charges against these two young girls?
BROOKS: I would like them to drop these charges and deal with these adolescents in terms of what they are, adolescents.
BLITZER: Is there a double standard, in your opinion, in these young minorities in these schools, in urban areas, whether in Columbia, South Carolina, or elsewhere, and predominantly white schools, where kids can -- teenagers can obviously do stupid stuff, too.
BROOKS: Well, the statistics suggest very clearly that there is a problem and that we see disparities from the very beginning of our children's lives to the very end. At the end of the day, they're children; and they need to be responded to as such.
Experienced teachers will tell you that a smile, judgment, discretion, a listening ear, those are effective tools, not handcuffs.
BLITZER: So you -- is there an important lesson all of us should learn from this moving forward to make sure it doesn't happen again?
[18:40:00] BROOKS: I think the important lesson here is to look at minority youth for what they are. They're youth, no more, no less. No more dangerous, no less dangerous. And that they need to be responded to with care and with consideration, compassion. They don't need to be brutalized and traumatized.
BLITZER: Very quickly, before I let you go, you were there in Chicago. James Comey, the FBI director, was there. What did you think of his suggestion, not based on these scientific statistical evidence but his suggestion that post-Ferguson, Missouri, police officers may be more reluctant to get out of their cars, do what they're supposed to do, out of fear that there are video cameras and cell phones and all that kind of stuff. And as a result, the folks out there, the people they're supposed to be protecting are potentially more endangered?
BROOKS: Listen, we can't blame young people with cell phones who are trying to protect themselves by filming instances of police misconduct. We can't blame them for what appears to be a rising crime rate in particular cities.
The fact of the matter is the FBI director knows that his theory is just a theory. Most criminologists don't support it. The president doesn't support it. The Department of Justice doesn't support it. I believe that he's gone beyond speculation in a way that the facts don't support.
BLITZER: So you don't accept this post-Ferguson...
BROOKS: The Ferguson Effect? I'm not aware of anyone who's come forward with any solid evidence to suggest the Ferguson Effect is in effect in Ferguson or anyplace else.
BLITZER: Well, you live in Baltimore. That's where the NAACP is headquartered. Is there a post-Baltimore Effect, based on what happened with...?
BROOKS: We've heard of this kind of suggestion in New York in 2014. In fact...
BLITZER: What about Baltimore?
BROOKS: In Baltimore, Baltimore has seen cyclical rises in crime. And when you talked to experienced detectives, and experienced law-enforcement officers, there's too little -- there's too little too early for us to be able to draw any useful conclusions there.
BLITZER: Cornell William Brooks, thanks very much for coming in.
BROOKS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. Still ahead, conflicting reports about the student's injuries.
We're going to talk about that and more when we come back.
[18:46:45] BLITZER: A white school resource officer, a deputy sheriff in South Carolina, is fired by the sheriff's department for a violent arrest of a black teenage girl who was accused of disturbing her class, an incident caught on camera.
Let's dig deeper with our CNN anchor Don Lemon, the criminal defense attorney, our CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson, and our CNN law enforcement analyst Cedric Alexander.
Don, your take on what we heard. He fired the deputy sheriff but at the same time, he said that 16-year-old girl in the class was responsible for starting this incident.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm not surprised he was fired, but to say -- I don't want people to misconstrue my words? Is she responsible for the incident? No. Is she responsible for being assaulted? No. Did she play a role for having the officers come and teacher come into the classroom? Yes, for that.
But for the incident and being beaten? No, she's not responsible for that. That police officer is the only one who is responsible for those actions. He should have deescalated the situation and there were other ways to handle it than what he did.
Now, is she responsible? Yes, for starting the thing where other people had to be brought in? Yes. But not for that awful, awful assault, not at all. And I'm surprised he said that.
BLITZER: Cedric, the sheriff in this case who fired the deputy sheriff, he said the maneuver used by the deputy was wrong. We saw that student seemingly put in a chokehold thrown across the room right there. Is that how police officers are trained to deal with an incident like this, even if that young girl may have raised her hand in a fist and hit him in the chest or someplace like that?
CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, no, nothing you saw on this video is trained by the police department anywhere on the face of this planet, particularly in this country, the United States.
It certainly was not, Wolf. It was over the top. It was beyond anything I have certainly ever seen before and the sheriff making the decision he made today was his decision. As a leader of law enforcement in this country, he had evidence to show clearly portions of what occurred, I'm quite sure, along with an investigation that included that of the statements from the teacher and students in the room, as well, too.
So, it's very unfortunate for everyone involved but opportunity was given for an investigation. The sheriff came and made his statement today is what he thought was appropriate based on what was presented to him, and that's the end of the story.
BLITZER: Do you think the sheriff, Cedric, made the right call firing him?
ALEXANDER: Yes, he made a right call. Without a question, the sheriff made a right call. It was his responsibility based on all the evidence that was presented in front of him. Fortunately, enough they would rather have the video and of course a number of witness statements, too. It doesn't take a long time to come to that conclusion and I think taking 48 hours, clearly from their investigation was appropriate and it needed to be brought to some end at some point.
BLITZER: Joey, you're our legal analyst. The sheriffs -- the deputy sheriff, the attorney for this deputy said today his client's actions were in his words, and I'll read them specifically, "Justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident. He was performing his job duties within the legal threshold."
[18:50:00] That's the lawyer representing the deputy.
Does he have a case?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I do not think that the deputy has a case. I mean, you know, he's a lawyer and obviously he's going to say that.
So, let's analyze three things if you're looking at the appropriateness of the deputy's conduct.
Number one, did it have to be initiated? Did what, did his actually touching and grabbing the student have to be initiated? I'd say no. So, that's the issue of should he, of course, have engaged in force in the first place?
What about interpersonal communication? Have we forgotten that? He's an 11-year veteran of the force. She's a 16-year-old child. No imminent threat being posed, no weapons there, no one in danger, she's just being disrespectful.
Not justifying it. I'll be the first to say, Wolf, comply now and grieve later and certainly teenagers and everybody respect the police, respect law enforcement. But there was no physical contact that should have been initiated in the first instance.
Step number two, then it gets to, if you are initiating contact, is the force used proportionate to the threat posed? Well, where is the threat? And you look at the force. So, answer that question.
And then the third thing, look to be the reasonableness of the officer's conduct. I think it was unreasonable under those circumstances. She's a child at a school. What example also are you setting for the students there? Completely improper.
So, of course, us attorneys, we make arguments. We try to make them as valid, as proper as we can. But I'm not really on board at all with the statement you just read. Perhaps he saw something else on this video that I saw.
BLITZER: Joey, you're the legal analyst. The charges against these two young girls in this class, the sheriff there in that county says those charges will remain. Is he right?
JACKSON: I don't think he's right either. Breaking that down -- of course, the fact is, we're dealing with a child here. I don't excuse the fact that she's rude, that she's disruptive or anything else, but you have to look at the fact that she's a child.
Who initiated the physical contact? The officer initiated it.
Second of all, we're going to start criminalizing students because they are on cell phones in a classroom setting and classroom environment? Is that what it comes to? Should we not be concerned about criminal records moving forward even if you could potentially seal it because she's a juvenile? Is it hard enough for youth to get ahead, going to school and working hard enough? We have to think about that?
What she needs at this point is love. She needs support. She potentially needs counseling. She needs to be talked to.
But to be dragged through a criminal system and potentially end up in a jail, I just think that that's far-fetched. It should be resolved internally. She should be disciplined internally.
BLITZER: All right.
JACKSON: And, of course, again, 11-year veteran, 16-year-old, you make the call.
BLITZER: Joey Jackson, Cedric Alexander, Don Lemon, guys, thanks very much.
This important note to our viewers, Don will be back later tonight at midnight, a very special "CNN TONIGHT" midnight tonight with Don Lemon.
We're going to have much more news coming up right after this.
[18:57:27] BLITZER: Breaking news on Capitol Hill tonight, where the House of Representatives have approved a two-year budget deal that passed with bipartisan support, including that of the newly nominated Republican candidate for speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
Our senior political reporter Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, this is something of a gift to Ryan from the outgoing Speaker John Boehner?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, indeed it was, Wolf.
Really, today was the end of the John Boehner era and the beginning of the Paul Ryan era. The budget deal just passed the House. This deal would raise the national debt limit into March of 2017, essentially taking off that big fiscal fight that has defined the Boehner era, taking that off the table, assuming this bill passes the Senate, attempted assume it will in the coming days. In addition, it would set top-line spending levels to reduce the chances of a government shutdown.
Now, Paul Ryan will still have to come in and negotiate program by program spending levels as early as December 11th. But still, the chances of a shutdown will be reduced significantly, really freeing Ryan's hands.
And today also, Wolf, Republicans met behind the scenes to nominate Paul Ryan as speaker and he got enough votes to become the Republican nominee for tomorrow's speaker's election, but did not receive the 218 votes that he'll need tomorrow on the House floor to become nominated, to become elected, largely because the House Freedom Caucus, the conservatives rallied behind the long-shot candidate, Daniel Webster of Florida, Republican, to support him as well.
But Ryan should be OK. I talked to Raul Labrador, one of the leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, and he signaled that he will give Paul Ryan some time to work his will when he becomes speaker and also to -- and also back him on the floor tomorrow.
Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: We're going to give him a chance. We're going to have his back for the next few months and make sure that we give him the opportunity to show that he can be the leader that we hope he can be.
RAJU: Should he worry about a "vacate the chair" resolution, an effort to overthrow him if he decides to do things his own way?
LABRADOR: I don't think so. If he keeps the promises that he's made and he's made them very publicly on all of these different issues, I don't think he's going to have to worry about anything like that.
RAJU: So, you expect tomorrow, the vast majority of the Freedom Caucus to support Paul Ryan?
LABRADOR: I would -- I don't know that I would describe it as a vast majority, but I think you're going to have the majority of the Freedom Caucus, absolutely.
RAJU: Now, Wolf, we'll see how long that support lasts within the right -- on the right, particularly if he starts to make she's big decisions in the coming weeks.
BLITZER: Manu, thanks very much.
That's all the time we have.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.